And today’s Puppy target is…amateur authors!

Bless Dave Freer of the Mad Genius Club, he’s taken off from a comment here and woven a delicate confection of post spun from the purest hot air.

“Just the profession of writing.That’s what the purpose of the site always has been. That’s what we’ve paid forward thousands of hours of our time to. It’s something which is personally very important to me. It’s a site I wish I could have found when I was starting into this profession. I love reading, particularly sf and fantasy, but reading in general. I want others to be able to enjoy it, and my unborn descendants to still enjoy it. Without professional writers… that will go the way of the music of the Lur. Once common, now Word says it is a spelling mistake.  There are of course still hobbyists who play a Lur. But that’s about it.”

[archive link]

Of course, by that standard the various diversions at Mad Genius into quixotic campaigns against awards, attempts to have people sacked from their jobs for not saying nice things about said quixotic campaigns, homophobic attacks on families and the general conspiracy theory mongering would all be distinctly off purpose. Perhaps Freer would rather have people believe each of those was about making money as a writer…

However, it’s the later part of Freer’s post that interests me more:

“If you can’t generate income from your writing, you’re a hobbyist. I wish you all the joy of your hobby, but unless you plan at least to try and try and generate an income, if you’re putting you novels on the market, I wish you in purgatory. We have enough dilettantes using writing for all sorts of other purposes which they care about, frankly damaging reading (because there is no selective pressure in needing to please readers to generate an income. It puts people off.) and certainly making life a lot harder for authors trying to make this a profession they can earn a living at.
Honestly, macramé is great for all those other things you care about. And if you could play the Lur as a hobby, it would bring a great deal more awareness to whatever issue you cared about without screwing up our profession.”

[archive link]

Well, lots of working people can’t generate income from their writing because of the time constraints involved. They might want to and they might hope that they will in the future but they can’t. Further, writing for its own sake brings people joy. If you are one of those people, well I guess you can enjoy having the trad-pub author Dave Freer sneer at you as he wishes you to purgatory.

Those two paragraphs are one of the neatest encapsulation of a core aspect of what I call the conservative crisis. Couple a firm belief in capitalism (although not a well informed one) with a belief that all you need to do to make money in a capitalist society is work hard with the harsh reality that you are struggling to make ends meet and what do you get? If your ideology tells you that the poor are poor because they are lazy and that the homeless are homeless because they choose to be and that millionaires are self-made and the rich deserve their wealth because of hard work, then NOT being an amazing success (particularly in middle-age) is an existential challenge to your self-worth. The only answer that can hold these contradictions together is that somebody, somewhere has cheated you of the success that your ideology and your self-perception say you deserve. The ‘them’ who you believe have cheated you will be legion. For Dave its those terrible New York elites and liberals and SJWs and now, amateur authors flooding the market with books!

In reality, hard work helps but it is no guarantee of success, talent helps and is also no guarantee. There will be lazy, talentless people who succeed because of their background or in some cases just luck. Understanding that is actually important for your own mental well-being.

80 responses to “And today’s Puppy target is…amateur authors!”

  1. I wonder if something’s in the Puppy zeitgeist. Brad Torgersen just did a post blasting all the elitists in SFWA who use the awards to tell people what they think is good SF (unlike the awards which don’t do that?) and he has a throwaway reference to how most of the SFWA members aren’t real writers (“”the vast majorify of SFWA members are not professionals, meaning they don’t publish much, or even at all, and they certainly don’t make a full-time living from their fiction sales.”).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, so that’s where it came from –

      I had a comment on my Nebula slate-gate post that came right out of left field. The commenter made the same baseless claim as Brad, and I could not figure out why they jumped to that conclusion (his later comments were just as nutty).

      Now I know.

      Liked by 1 person

    • That idea of financial independence via writing is a common theme across various groups and individuals we’ve discussed here.

      I get it (wow, writing stories for a living!) but it’s manifestly not something many writers will achieve. Brad certainly hasn’t (& that’s not an attempt to disparage him), And very few writers we talk about here have (John Scalzi, Larry Correia are the ‘made it’ examples).

      Michael Anderle and Craig Martelle seem to be doing well financially but their formula neatly demonstrates the scale of at least semi-decent output needed to prosper in the Amazon wilds. Nor is it clear that their formula will work for most even if the level of production can be maintained.

      The other Mad Genii either struggle financially or have other jobs (again not intended as disparaging). Dave Freer apparently gets by with a frugal lifestyle (which again is not a criticism).

      Writing fiction is not a great choice for making decent money and very few people of those that try will do well. A fact that fuels the cloud of angry-strangeness that surrounds writerdom.


    • Umm don’t you have to have made some money by selling your writing to get into the SFWA? And isn’t getting money for something basically the definition of being a professional anything?


      • @KasaObake —

        “And isn’t getting money for something basically the definition of being a professional anything?”

        Not quite. In tax terms, the difference between a “hobbyist” and a “professional” is whether you are making a net profit.


      • Fair enough!

        And re the dig at editors – they’re also involved in the book biz, and pretty damn crucial for a good finished product. (This may be a dig at Baen.)


        • I knew he came from a theatrical family (his knowledge of theater shows in several stories) but I didn’t realize Leiber did any acting himself. Cool.


      • He was in a couple of Hollywood movies in the 1930s, when his Dad worked in Hollywood, too. One of them is “Camille”, where he has a small part as a gentleman at a ball with Greta Garbo and Robert Taylor.

        Coincidentally, Leiber’s time as a trainee priest apparently inspired “Lean Times in Lankhmar”, where Fafhrd briefly finds religion and turns the cult of a minor god into a successful religion. Not because he is a particularly good priest, though he is sincere in his belief, but because he is a good actor and storyteller just like Leiber himself.


    • And Einstein wasn’t a real physicist when he published his papers on the photoelectric effect and special relativity. You know, the stuff that turned physics upside down and won him a Nobel prize.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. P.S. You know, come to think of it, I had a similar discussion with another puppy type several months ago. He opined that the only true measure of success for an author was publishing as many books as possible within as short a time as possible, and selling as many copies as possible (and had similar arguments for other types of art). He dismissed authors who write slowly, and those who aren’t bestsellers — and claimed that bestseller lists from the past were better measures of quality than things like Pulitzer Prizes.

    He didn’t have much answer when we pointed out that for the year Hemingway won the Pulitzer, none of us recognized the bestsellers from the NYT book list — or when we pointed out that van Gogh didn’t sell during his lifetime — and similar cases.


  3. Great, now you made me go and spend some of my very limited energy (down with a nasty case of flu) on reading some Dave Freer garble-garble.

    Anyway, this whole “If you’re not making a full-time income (sometimes with a number attached) with your writing, you’re a hobbyist and have nothing to say and new writers must be warned about listening to you” line does crop up on forums and message boards for self-publishers quite often. I’ve been a target myself and I’ve seen this sort of thing drive talented writers away, writers who are much better than the ones making a full-time income with their cookie cutter works. And many of the exclusive Facebook groups for writers won’t even accept you, unless you send them a screenshot about how much money you’re making.

    It’s this sort of thinking that has turned the self-publishing scene from a happy, free for all, “every story can find its reader” and “no niche is too small” community into the purely profit driven “write to market or else…” world it is now within only a handful of years.

    Dave Freer combines the “If you don’t earn X, you’re a hobbyist” line from certain self-publishers with the typical MGC toxicness and also inadvertedly reveals what really bothers those folks. Namely, the fact that if anybody can self-publish, it means that truly everybody can. Not just the poor, downtrodden white conservative working class military SF writer whose works of genius were ignored by Big Five publishing, but also the black urban lesbian who writes about peaceful all-women collectives in space. And both books are next to each other on the virtual shelf. And even if the white conservative’s “exploding spaceships in space” novel outsells the “peaceful all-women collective in space” novel (and it usually does, at least on Amazon, because the Kindle store and Kindle Unlimited are particularly popular in more conservative rural areas), there’s still always that niggling worry if that other books isn’t taking away visibility. And even if 100 people bought “Exploding spaceships in space, Vol. 27” and only 10 bought “peaceful leabian collective in space”, they always wonder if they couldn’t have had those ten sales, too, if not for that pesky other book.

    This also explains their hostilty to traditional publishing and to popular and award-winning SFF authors. Because whenever they see Ann Leckie or N.K. Jemisin or John Scalzi on a bestseller list, there’s always that little voice that whispers, “But no one likes or reads those authors. This has got to be a trick. If not for them, my book could be there.”

    Of course, this is completely ridiculous. Even if Ann Leckie, N.K. Jemisin and John Scalzi were banned from publishing tomorrow (and Scalzi is a full-time author. Jemisin, too, I think), their readers would magically decide to read Dave Freer instead. Most likely, they’d find some other place to get their fix, another genre, fanfiction, etc….

    Liked by 2 people

    • @Cora —

      “(and Scalzi is a full-time author. Jemisin, too, I think)”

      In fact, that earlier discussion I mentioned started with his (their) attempts to condemn and/or dismiss Jemisin. First someone tried to claim Jemisin was a failure because she was supposedly “begging for rent money” on Patreon. It did not help their argument when I pointed out that she was at that time (I haven’t checked lately) making about $70,000 per year off Patreon alone. Then this guy tried to dismiss her because she was supposedly writing too slowly, and if she were a “real writer” she would be pumping out books much more quickly, and her goal should be to sell as many books as possible as quickly as possible rather than to write high quality books more slowly.

      And so it goes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Damn, I wish we could edit our posts here!

        I forgot — that guy started out by claiming Jemisin was defrauding her Patreon patrons because they were giving her money and she wasn’t publishing books quickly enough to pay them back!

        Liked by 2 people

      • I answer to points made by Cora and Contrarius in one post (lazy):

        First Cora: The whole hobbyist point confuses me, don’t most writers start that way that writing is a hoby or a secondary job? And only if they are succesful it becomes their main job?

        Re Contrarius: I always thought that Jemisin was a very fast writer. A trilogy coming out in 3 consecutive years is pretty fast.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The point (though confused) is that you only count as a professional writer if you earn more than some nebulous threshold. Doesn’t matter, if you don’t make a profit, because you blow it all on ads. If you cross the threshold, you’re a real professional writer. If you don’t, you’re a filthy hobbyist who should piss off to Wattpad.

        Regarding N.K. Jemisin, by traditional publishing standards she is a fast writer. But by the standards of the “one book a months” self-publisher crowd, she’s slow.

        Also Patreon money obviously is income. It is people who are literally willing to pay N.K. Jemisin money to read her writing. It doesn’t get more commercial than that.


    • Freer earned his way off my reading list with his attacks on Foz last year, and that’s got nothing to do with how he earns his living. If somehow Scalzi and Jemisin were to all of a sudden be banned from publishing there are still many dozens of other authors who aren’t Freer and his ilk whom I will happily read.

      Liked by 1 person

        • frasersherman: I’ve lumped a lot of authors such as Wright and Ringo into my “never going to get around to them” file. Guess I can add Freer to the list.

          Honestly, the nonfiction writing of the MGC members is so appallingly-bad — wildly irrational and scattered, with the writing level of a child — I don’t see how their fiction can be worth reading. Their own blog posts are the worst possible sort of advertising for their fiction writing.

          And the ones for whom I have read some of their fiction (JCW and CUL in particular) bear that out. Ringo’s fiction is at least readable, but sexist as all hell, and it hits the reader over the head repeatedly with his politics. Hoyt’s Shifter trilogy is readable and enjoyable, but the first two novels were written well over 10 years ago, before she went completely whackjob.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry, but I really need to know: Who is CUL? It’s a hobby of mine to figure out all the Puppy writers (and I don’t want to buy anything from them unknowingly), and for the life of me I can’t place those initials.


      • Oh, right, I’ve heard of him. Thank you. Is this an in-joke name? I heard someone threw a huge fit being mentioned by Camestos last year.


    • When I spoke with Ann Leckie at MidAmericon II in 2016, she told me that the success of Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword had enabled her to become a full-time writer. I am sure that the success of Ancillary Mercy and Provenance have only cemented that.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Cora: I know it isn’t directly related, but while I was reading this comment I was reminded of the comment that Rebecca Sugar (queer nonbinary creator of the Steven Universe cartoon) made in response to “outrage” at the show’s treatment of various gender and sexualities issues. I can’t find the exact quote, now, but it was along the lines of: When we complained about lack of representation in media, they told us to go make our own. Then, when we do, look what happens…

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Oh, the anger Freer must feel against Andy Weir’s The Martian, that was published for free on his blog. Destroyed it for everyone. To purgatory with him!

    Or… could it be that some people publish stuff for free and then perhaps later refine the stuff and publish it for money? Or get picked up by a publisher? Are they then released from purgatory, that is, only if they should become successful?

    Liked by 1 person

        • Cora Buhlert: I think VD is still complaining that the book version shouldn’t have been nominated for a Hugo because of the blog version.

          That was the first time that it came up — that a previously-self-published book was trad-published and then nominated for a Hugo — and the admins didn’t really know how to deal with it. The discussion around that incident resulted in the “previously self-published = no longer eligible” ruling which prevented The Martian, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, The Red: First Light, and Retrograde from being Hugo-eligible.

          Similar is MRK’s “The Lady Astronaut” audionovelette being disqualified by the Hugo admins as not eligible in the fiction Novelette category. The response on the part of the voters was so angry that they said, “Right then, the Hugo voters have declared that fiction published as an audio work is considered eligible as first publication”, and such works would not be disqualified now.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. The thing is, I actually agree with a fair bit of what he says at the start – authors aren’t paid enough, making it your full time job is damn tricky esp in the states where their healthcare system penalises freelancing, etc etc. But then the sudden lurch into damning “amateurs” is bizarre – every pro was an aspiring amateur once, so how does he propose anyone breaks in?
    Of course, I suspect his secrit code is that he really means anyone not willing to follow their pathway to middle-of-the-road market-led stuff – not that there’s anything wrong with that, but where would we be without the authors taking chances on something fresh and new?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t want to leap to use the F-word but that’s a classic example: list a bunch of legitimate issues a set of workers have trying to have a decent life with a decent income…then blame the situation on nebulous others while rejecting genuine reform or just things that would make things better (e.g. for US authors free-at-source healthcare). The rejection of capitalism without the rejection of capitalism.


  6. So the Puppies, who late in the game declared themselves champions of the indies and claimed the indies are being hounded by license publish authors, are now attacking indie authors in favor of license publish authors? And this is coming from the guy who makes his living from a farm in Australia? Sounds like Freer is hoping to turn his site into an operation like Anderle’s and thinks that this is how you do it. And they’re trying to float that the SFWA, which has professional writing income standards you have to meet to become a member, is full of unpublished amateurs? Because they still get tugged by Beale’s leash.

    The fiction is dying and will be dead line has been going on all my life and throughout the centuries of fiction publishing. Books altogether being dead or soon to be dead has gone on since the invention of the printing press, which opened up the size of the market and increased literacy rates slowly. (My favorite one is the line in Ghostbusters.) Science fiction has been about to die since the 1930s and for the last several decades is supposedly already dead thanks to fantasy fiction and girl cooties. Print books of course are supposed to be gone by now, instead of growing sales (though print may disappear one day and that will be an easy way to cut the poor off from access to knowledge, education, literacy and wealth. Enjoy what open access we still have.) Tie-in fiction was supposed to kill original fiction, just as reality t.v. was supposed to kill off original scripted fiction programming in television. Vampire novels were supposedly going to kill off all other SFFH, as was then zombie novels. Electronic self-publishing was supposed to kill off the publishers, New Wave and then cyberpunk was supposed to destroy hard SF, grimdark was supposed to take over fantasy fiction, YA was supposed to destroy adult market fiction, general fiction SFF was supposed to destroy the category market whenever a general fiction market title was popular, horror has been repeatedly reported dead in written fiction and film, westerns were supposedly dead when the small category market for westerns sort of dried up after the wholesale market collapse plus are regularly declared dead in film and t.v. until the next hit western, dystopian SF was taking over YA SF, romance was going to take over and destroy fantasy fiction, family sagas were proclaimed dead, historical fiction has been called dead a few times, chick lit — comedy stories about women — was proclaimed dead, and on and on.

    The people who proclaim that something creative will be wiped out by something else fundamentally do not understand how creative markets work and absolutely don’t understand the symbiosis of written fiction sales. The marketing obsessed indie writers — no different from the marketing obsessed license publish authors — have every right to approach it that way, if they want, but they aren’t going to wipe out other authors who don’t do it that way. And they aren’t going to get around the pyramid shape of sales or the issue that fiction sells mainly from word of mouth.

    The approach that some of these indie authors are taking is an old one and it isn’t based on written titles succeeding. It’s based on having lots of titles that sell a little each, for a cumulative bulk sale total — small audiences, low costs, mass market sales. They aren’t successful works, they’re a discount bundle. This is how numerous authors did it in the old days of the vast magazine and mass market paperback wholesale market. There were working authors who wrote under various pseudonyms and did writer for hire series under other ones and various forms of pulp. And they would write anything in the mass market — historical, romance, westerns, SFFH, suspense, soft porn, magazines that published “true” confessions stories, etc. They didn’t need to promote them much because the works were just sent out wholesale in bulk to fill the racks (with high return rates,) and the magazines were sold also in the wholesale/newsstands market. It wasn’t unusual to meet an author who’d done a 100 novels over a couple of decades right up into the early 1990s. The romance writers usually had three to five pseudonyms going at any one time.

    And the SFF authors all did this, because none of the writing paid very well unless you got some screen-writing work like Ellison. (Which is why Hubbard went off and started his own religion to make more cash.) Again, somewhere there is a soft porn novel written by Ursula Le Guin under a pseudonym for cash. They didn’t just write SFFH most of them. And they all had various day jobs — teaching, science, business, etc. Because very few writers are ever able to write full time in written fiction. It simply doesn’t pay enough for the vast majority. About 90% of fiction writers have day jobs or other freelance writing work in non-fiction (see Asimov), and the ones in the 10% who do fiction writing full time either have partners who provide the main household income or had to work a day job a long time before taking the risk of going full time (which is what Jemisin did.) In the U.S., it is extremely difficult for fiction authors to do because of the health insurance issue.

    All income earning fiction authors start out as hobbyists writing on spec. It can take years before a writer gets a license sale for a work. And with self-pub authors, it can take years before they see any decent returns on sales. The KU market is similar to a mass market bulk rack or the old book club titles method — the titles are there for the subscribers, of which there are millions. If just a few pick your book, then you get some sales, but to maximize it, you have to have lots of products, so that you get more random picks and get an income from the totaling of a lot of little sales, rather than one title selling big. This is what Penguin, Berkley and other mass market paperback houses throughout the decades also used as their business model. It requires lots of authors, lots of product.

    But in the mass market paperback market, authors were symbiotic and helped each other sell by drawing in more book readers. And in the overall fiction market, including regular Amazon sales venues, fiction authors are symbiotic and help each other sell. But in the KU market, authors are competing for a set amount of money because then Amazon gets them for a bargain basement rate. The actual text of the stories — whether readers enjoy the text or even really read it — doesn’t matter as long as subscribers click. And KU authors are competing against book stuffers and other cons against subscribers that Amazon is slow to weed out — and sometimes punishes non-con authors in the process. So that’s a tough gig, though a few at the top of the pyramid make off with cash.

    But that’s not most of the fiction market. If Freer wants to set up his own MGC subscription market model and do it that way, he can. Or he can sell marketing services that supposedly help to indie authors — maybe he’s gearing up for a sales pitch. But it isn’t going to matter to most of the fiction market.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. “All income earning fiction authors start out as hobbyists writing on spec.” I’d dispute that. I always thought of myself as working towards being a professional, even when I had zero income (otherwise, excellent comment).
    But that brings up another implication of the “not professional” argument, that if they were hobbyists they can’t be serious or committed. I’m sure everyone on this list knows a hobbyist who’s as dedicated as any professional (I know people who repair cars for fun and, of course, knit fanatically).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was using “hobbyist” according to their off-base definition, as someone who is not getting paid to make something. People start off making things, not getting paid. Then they decide whether they are going to market it or not. They may go about it in very “professional” ways or not. In written fiction, the market is highly used to having writers who don’t have a clue about the business side. They still may make stories beloved by many.

      And macrame is one of the hottest areas of home and garden decor craft businesses. Macrame items were one of the hot trends in crafts for 2018, because the boho look is still very popular and people want stuff with natural fibers. 🙂 Craft and garden YouTubers make more money with their “hobbies” than most of the folks at MGC are ever likely to see. It’s a bigger market than written fiction.

      And that’s honestly what I find funniest about all the if you’re not selling big, you’re not worth a wig nonsense. Written fiction is a tiny market comparatively, though it always has easy room for expansion growth. Pretty much anything you could chose to make, from apps to knit crafts, is a way bigger market than written fiction. And non-fiction is a way bigger market with lots of ancillary, money-making products attached to it. People who want to get rich don’t bother trying to be fiction authors. A few of them manage it, but most fiction incomes are stolid at best.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Whenever I see the prices for craft items on etsy and places like that, I sometimes think, “Hey, maybe I should sell some of my stuff?” But then I think, “No, this is my hobby and I don’t need the pressure nor the RSI that comes from crocheting too much.”

        So right now, the only way to get a hand-crocheted item from me is as a gift. And only for selected recipients, because many of the people who got crocheted and other handmade gifts from me over the years never appreciated them anyway.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I did scrapbooking for a while, but eventually stopped because I was so slow. Every 2-page spread was a consummate work of art, and I was really proud of the work I did — but to be a good scrapbooker, you have to be able to keep up with your photos. I did an absolutely stunning wedding album for my mom, who had never had anything but a box of slides which she had seen once shortly after the wedding (from which I had prints made). I did an amazing First Year book for the child of one of my siblings, using photocopies of photos I’d been sent so that they could be replaced with the real photos by the child’s mother, who left me a really emotional voice mail message when she received it. She later told me that I should make page spreads on various themes and sell them on eBay (as some scrapbookers do). I considered it briefly, then realized with the amount of time and effort I put into each one, I would have to charge around $100 for each two-page spread. And you’re right, a labor of love would stop being fun if you have to produce it on demand.

          Liked by 3 people

          • (let’s see if this goes where it is supposed to)

            I agree, some of my best work was just me free-handing a design on a Saturday night solely for my own enjoyment.


      • At least your mother and siblings appreciated all the work that went into those albums. My luck in that regard has been mixed, at best. My parents always appreciated my handmade gifts as did my grandmothers. But everybody else in the family didn’t. One of my aunts got dozens of beautiful handmade gifts over the years and never used a single one, because it interferred with her design ideas for her home. Even when I specifically matched the colours to her taste and interior, she never used any of it. That should have tipped me off about her long before she abruptly cut me and my parents off after my uncle died. Another aunt – a credential owner – got a cat-themed quilted tablecloth and never used it either.


  8. I think I may be part of the problem, here. I did demand appropriate professional-level compensation for writing this comment, but when I opened the brown envelope Camestros sent, the notes inside were all marked “fife pnuds” and had Timothy’s face where the Queen’s should have been. So here I am, writing as an amateur again. Damn.

    Anyway, it occurs to me that, historically speaking, most writers have been amateurs by Freer’s standards. People have been telling stories since language was invented, but making a decent living out of it depends on a lot of relatively modern things, like high popular literacy rates and an extensive distribution network that can get your writings into many hands and their money into yours with high efficiency. Most writers have been dilettantes, one way or another. The proportion who actually make a living by their pens is pretty small…

    … and I don’t see many of the MGC/20to50 lot joining it very soon, to be honest, because “writing to the market” and churning out “minimally viable product” is (IMHO) the wrong way to go if you’re going to break out and become a best seller. You need to take risks, broaden your appeal, and generally up your game, if you want to stand out from the crowd. I think I’ve said before that the big success stories (in recent years at least) have come from people who’ve written stuff that fits a particular niche, and had something else that gave it a broader appeal to people who wouldn’t normally look in that niche. Ann Leckie wrote a classic space opera trilogy, and had all the thinky bits about identity and pronouns. N.K. Jemisin wrote a fantasy adventure and it had searing social commentary on the nature of oppression. And both of them wrote to a standard a damn sight higher than “minimally viable”, that’s for certain.

    People write, mostly, because they want to tell stories. If their motivation was purely financial, they’d pick some career that was more secure and more lucrative, like prostitution or chainsaw juggling. The MGC and the 20to50 guys, I fear, are offering false hope; the myth of a secure, steady income which you can get just by following their formula. But the artistic world is notoriously insecure and rickety, and their formulae are recipes for mediocrity. As a reader, I don’t want mediocre books, I want good ones – and that’s why the bulk of the MGC/20to50 guys won’t make it. Some will – random chance dictates that, if nothing else. But most won’t. So never mind writing to a formula in the hope of giving up the day job. Write something good, and it will make its own niche.

    Liked by 3 people

    • stevejwright: historically speaking, most writers have been amateurs by Freer’s standards.

      In the past 4 years, Freer’s only publications have been a handful of self-pubbed works, a novel published by Baen (with a whopping 56 reviews on Amazon), and a collaboration job that Eric Flint was kind enough to give him (which has 9 reviews). By Freer’s own standards, that makes him one of the “hobbyist writers” which he so despises.

      Perhaps Dave Freer should take up macramé.

      Liked by 2 people

    • People writer because they want to tell stories is true for the majority of writers, though the self-publishing boom has also brought in the golddiggers who care more about money than anything else. Many of those golddiggers started out as people who genuinely loved to tell stories, then saw some success and wanted more or had piled up so many expanses that they cannot survive without a steady money rain. Others are the sort of people who were making money with scammy SEO-laden website fifteen years ago, who were flipping houses ten years ago and now they’re publishing books, usually ghostwritten. I keep waiting for them to hop onto the next money-making scheme. Maybe macramé, but then they’d actually have to put in some work, unless they persuade their grannies to ghost-macramé for them.


  9. I think the comments at MGC divide into three categories:

    1) Maybe a third or more really are advice to beginning writers. Those don’t get a lot of comments, but they do get some attention–generally from the same small group of people.

    2) The political posts. What’s weird to me is that these remind me more than anything else of the things gay guys in the closet used to post back in the 1990s. Yeah, we were a minority and we faced some real challenges, but things weren’t that bad! The combination of anger, defeatism, and fear is just unhealthy.

    3) The other big category is “I forgot it was my turn to post.”

    Liked by 4 people

    • Don’t forget the endless Blasts From The Past, or is that just According To Hoyt?


  10. What little sense I made out of that mess boils down to what seems to be the MGC’s mantra–“If it sells well, it’s good writing.”

    That is a line of bull. It’s simply not true in every case, and Freer should know it’s not true.

    What it is is comfort writing, in many cases. It’s writing that stays within its lane, playing to stereotypes and plot coupons and predictability, with beats and characters all the same as the author’s other potboilers that s/he churns out on a regular basis. That gets damned boring to me, real fast. As far as Patreon goes, I’m a patron of Caitlin R. Kiernan and have been for years. She started her Patreon to write a novel that didn’t have to be finished on a deadline, that she could then shop around and sell without having to be tied to a contract because she needed the money. Guess what? That novel still hasn’t appeared. I don’t give a shit, because I’m supporting her as a writer and a person, not because she pumps out subpar prose every month to pay what she “owes” me. This is also the reason I support Jemisin, and Seanan McGuire, and my other writers on Patreon. I would far rather have wonderful books like the Broken Earth trilogy, or Kiernan’s short stories, or McGuire/Mira Grant’s shivery horror/zombie/mermaid tales, then the kind of mediocre crap that Freer seems to think “successful” authors should put out.

    Furthermore, it’s not Freer’s goddamned “profession,” as if he owns it. Writing belongs to anyone who loves and wants to do it, whether or not they ever make any money at it or even publish in their lifetimes. Ask Emily Dickinson about that, why don’t you? Of course, Freer would promptly condemn her as a “hobbyist” who apparently takes away the zero-sum-game total of readers from people who really deserve it, that is the people who pump out shyte to order for the bottom dollar.

    Sorry for getting so worked up, but damn, this reminds me of what I usually see when I argue with conservatives–many times, their philosophy boils down to “Eff you, I’ve got mine.” And also the usual “bootstrap” bullshit, as Cam mentioned. That is a terrible way to live, and I don’t know how they do it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah cripes, I didn’t turn the italics tag off after “comfort.” Can you fix that, Cam?


      • Honestly, if it weren’t for the Puppy nonsense and related shenanigans, I don’t think I’d know that Correia or any of the MGC people even exist.


      • Baen’s distribution outside the US is notoriously bad and the only places where I’ve ever seen books by the likes of Correia, Hoyt or Ringo (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a physical book by Dave Freer) on the shelves in Europe are specialist stores like the big Forbidden Planet stores in London and Birmingham or Hodges Figgis in Dublin.

        Meanwhile, books by Ann Leckie, N.K. Jemisin or John Scalzi do show up on the foreign language shelves of bigger German book shops quite often.


      • Baen’s distribution inside the U.S. doesn’t seem to be particularly good either, or at least it has a definite regional bent. In the area where I live, I almost never see Baen books in bookstores other than those written by Bujold. Some authors are quite conspicuously absent from local bookstore shelves. If one were to go by the frequency with which they appear on shelves, one would come away with the impression that Chuck Gannon sold a lot more books than Correia.

        Obviously, guys like Correia sell somewhere in the U.S., but their sales would seem to be quite regional.


      • I’m not sure bookstore presence reflects Baen’s success or failure. A lot of books are sold online, and some genres like SF and fantasy have gone digital to a large degree.


      • We aren’t talking about general success or failure overall here, just the distribution network for the publisher.


    • “what seems to be the MGC’s mantra–“If it sells well, it’s good writing.””

      But that isn’t their mantra, because the biggest selling living authors are J.K. Rowling and Stephen King and both are SJW’s they don’t think are good writers. They seem to truly despise numerous bestselling authors — Scalzi, Jemisin, Leckie, Margaret Atwood, etc. because they are liberals who support equal rights. They seem to be focused on the transactional, the success rate, but they’re really just focused on political and cultural ideology. It’s all a prop.

      “Good” is subjective. What the Puppies want is reassurance, but unfortunately the only way they find things reassuring is if they are unjust against marginalized groups. The money stuff only matters to them if the right sort of people they feel belong in their group have the money. It’s what sociologists call the Security Story.

      Liked by 2 people

      • @Kat —

        “But that isn’t their mantra, [….]They seem to truly despise numerous bestselling authors — Scalzi, Jemisin, Leckie, Margaret Atwood, etc. because they are liberals who support equal rights.”

        Ahh, Kat…. I have exchanged many a comment with puppy types who insist, loudly and at great length and with great fervor, that Jemisin and Scalzi don’t actually sell many books. That bit about selling lots of books is indeed one of their mantras — it’s just that they are perfectly willing to completely ignore reality in order to maintain their beliefs.


      • @Hampus – Rowling is only a centrist in British terms, though. By US standards both she and Blair are practically Commies. (I’m not sure she is a Blairite, exactly, though she’s clearly on the right of the Labour Party as it is at present).


      • There’s plenty to criticize Rowling on and people have. Nonetheless, she has defended civil rights, however imperfectly, and taken social justice stances, as has King. Neither of them are conservatives or far right. And they are the two most successful living authors on the planet. So, since their stuff sells well, they should be considered good writers. But folks like the Puppies don’t necessarily consider them so because they consider them SJWs. So that’s not really their mantra. It’s a prop they trot out and don’t actually believe.

        Authors like John Scalzi and N.K. Jemisin are bestsellers, which is how far right activists even know who they are. There’s no point in going after anyone as a scheming SJW unless they are well known as high sellers, because who cares if someone selling 5,000 copies is a SJW or not and your cohorts won’t know their names. That doesn’t make a high profile enough case. So by their own repeated efforts to discredit and condemn Scalzi and Jemisin for their social justice stances, and Jemisin for being a successful black woman — something most of them find automatically illegitimate or threatening — the far right frothers like the Puppies confirm that Scalzi and Jemisin are high sellers worthy of their attention. Which again means that sell well, write good is not their real mantra.

        That leads to them trying to “take down” the well known, high selling authors as scheming threats, to be discredited. Because the existence of them shows the cultural myths they feel central to their own identities to be myths, which will make those myths increasingly unpopular in the culture and possibly discarded. Which they think means the end to their cultural identity and influence, and the security of that. Which leads to increasingly irrational conspiracy theories to try to negate their impact on the culture. It’s not that they actually think that everything is transactional and about money. It’s that the ideas of transactionality and the merit of wealth are justifications for inequality and discriminatory myths that support that inequality.

        But in this screed, Freer seems to be mainly just asserting his own self-proclaimed authority of fiction publishing. Even though he doesn’t actually fit his own requirements for being professional, he’s still asserting them as him standing atop the publishing hierarchy, defending the edifice of written fiction from the ignorant amateur peasant hordes below. This is not an unusual position, nor limited to far right people, though they gravitate towards it. It’s a non-civil rights variant of the superior righteous.

        But the question is simply why. Which indie authors were particularly annoying Freer or BT or various of them that this screed asserting authority was considered necessary? Did someone call MGC an amateur site or something?

        Liked by 1 person

        • @Kat —

          “There’s no point in going after anyone as a scheming SJW unless they are well known as high sellers, because who cares if someone selling 5,000 copies is a SJW or not and your cohorts won’t know their names. ”

          Funny you should mention that 5000 number. One of the years Jemisin was Hugo nominated — I forget which — I had a loooooong argument over on Lela’s blog with a commenter who claimed — and kept adamantly insisting — that no Hugo-nominated book for that year had sold more than 5000 copies. No amount of reality-based evidence would change his mind, either. In fact, that was one of many spurious claims floating around the puppysphere that year, all because of a vast misrepresentation of some BookScan data they had gotten hold of.

          “the far right frothers like the Puppies confirm that Scalzi and Jemisin are high sellers worthy of their attention.”

          Just a couple of weeks ago, over on 770, we had yet another example of a frothing puppy who kept insisting at length that Scalzi’s career is dying and that his book sales are lousy. I forget the guy’s name, but you should go check that out if you want to see just how fantasy-based some of them can be.

          The power of self-delusion in some folks is truly amazing.


  11. Right now when I checked, there was 44 comments under both Camestros post and Freers. That just cannot be coincidence!!!


  12. “Hoyt’s Shifter trilogy is readable and enjoyable, but the first two novels were written well over 10 years ago, before she went completely whackjob.”
    I tried one of Hoyt’s books and didn’t care for it at all, and that was well before i knew about her politics.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Contrarius:

    “Just a couple of weeks ago, over on 770, we had yet another example of a frothing puppy who kept insisting at length that Scalzi’s career is dying and that his book sales are lousy. I forget the guy’s name, but you should go check that out if you want to see just how fantasy-based some of them can be.”

    Jon Bromfield was the name (a fellow Scalzi banned nearly a decade ago, when Scalzi and MZW got tired of dunking on him in the comments of Scalzi’s blog).

    I wonder what Larry Correia thinks of the fact that when his publisher wants to get attention for Larry’s latest, they send a copy to Scalzi, so Scalzi can publicize it.

    Note that Isaac Asimov had a day-job when he wrote most of the SF he’s best known for (actually several different day-jobs). John W. Campbell, Jr. _wanted_ stories written by people with real jobs in the sciences and sought them out.

    P.S. JDA is vice-signalling on Twitter today Isn’t he special?


    • I saw the Tweet from JdA at the time. It was intentional from him to get notoriety now. I screenshotted it and time stamped it.

      There will be others who try similar moves – an attempt to exploit people’s fear and pain and grief to get hits. Don’t ignore them but I’d advise not to give them additional publicity…yet. Their aim to catch a boost on the wave of attention directed at the horror in NZ. Save the evidence and point out the kind of person they have shown themselves to be later, specifically when they want to pretend to be respectable or the victim or harmless or unextreme.

      Liked by 1 person

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